Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

The increased demand for walkable urban spaces could make them more and more exclusionary if cities don’t pursue policies to limit displacement and boost affordability.

1 minute read

January 27, 2023, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


View of stone-paved street with pedestrians and "Farmers Market" neon sign on left and old buildings on right in Seattle, Washington

Checubus / Seattle, Washington

As more people recognize and seek out the benefits of compact, walkable, communities, the desirability of these areas and the consequent rising housing costs threaten to put them out of reach for many American households without concerted efforts on the part of policymakers to preserve affordable housing, according to a report from Smart Growth America. Maria Rachal outlines the report’s findings for Smart Cities Dive.

While early pandemic pundits predicted the ‘death’ of urban areas, recent trends show that people—perhaps more than ever—value the benefits of compact development and easily accessible amenities and services. But “Demand drives up costs and can reduce low- and moderate-income households’ opportunity to live in highly walkable areas,” the report warns.

“The organizations that produced the report stated that 19.1% of the total U.S. real GDP and 6.8% of the nation’s population are in walkable urban places that cover 1.2% of the total land mass of the top 35 metro areas.” Yet many localities prevent dense development through their zoning codes. “To spur walkability and equitable access to walkable areas, cities can advance zoning reform, foster non-car transportation options, preserve and invest in affordable housing, and plan for walkable neighborhoods to be resilient to climate impacts, the report states.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2023 in Smart Cities Dive

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